Joining the dark side
It never ceases to amaze me that whenever a major corporate declines the short sellers are suddenly painted as financial equivalents of psychopaths. This is madness, rather than examining the exceptionally poor (and sometimes criminal) decisions that the corporate itself took, the short sellers are hauled over the coals.
As the New York Times recently reminded us, vilifying short sellers is nothing new.
In the days when square-rigged galleons plied the spice route to the East, the Dutch outlawed a band of rebels that they feared might plunder their new-found riches.
The troublemakers were neither Barbary pirates nor Spanish spies — they were certain traders on the stock exchange in Amsterdam. Their offence: shorting the shares of the Dutch East India Company, purportedly the first company in the world to issue stock.
Short sellers, who sell assets like stocks in the hope that the price will fall, have been reviled ever since. England banned them for much of the 18th and 19th centuries. Napoleon deemed them enemies of the state. And Germany’s last Kaiser enlisted them to attack American markets (or so some Americans feared).
Jenny Anderson, NY Times, 30 April 2008